3 Things You Shouldn’t Keep on Your Nightstand if You Want to Sleep Well — and 4 Things You Should

published Feb 9, 2023
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Credit: Lana Kenney

Good sleep is already elusive enough. Between anxiety, noisy neighbors, and demanding pets, it can be hard to get a solid eight hours. But sleep gets worse when you invite other distractions in.

That’s why I asked sleep experts what items to keep next to the bed to promote sleep — and which things should be kicked out of the bedroom, down the hall, and behind a closed door.

Credit: Lauren Kolyn

Welcome In!

A book

Reading before bed is a calming ritual that can put you in the mood for sleep. Try to avoid anything that feels like work or sends your mind into overdrive. 

A glass of water

“A glass of water beside the bed can prevent you from having to get up in the middle of the night and further disrupting your sleep if you wake up thirsty,” says Dr. Shelby Harris, licensed clinical psychologist and Director of Sleep Health at Sleepopolis. 

To avoid having to get up to use the bathroom, though, drink plenty of water and use the bathroom before going to bed. Then only take sips as needed — try not to guzzle the whole glass.

A sound machine

If you live in a noisy area, the cacophony of vehicles, live music, and loud voices of people who are too excited to be awake when you’re trying to sleep can increase stress levels and affect your health. For these situations, you might need to bring in a sound machine. A machine can drown out the noise and tell your body it’s time to sleep.

A journal

Writing in a gratitude journal before bed can be another calming wind-down ritual. A journal or notepad on your bedside table gives you an alternative to keeping thoughts and to-dos running through your head. Just jot down notes to yourself and trust they’ll be there in the morning.

See Ya Tomorrow!

Your phone

Experts agree that the top items to kick out of your bedroom are electronic devices. “It’s a good idea to have a designated spot to put distractions like cell phones and tablets while you sleep,” Harris says. “Try to store devices out of sight to avoid the temptation to scroll late at night and avoid exposure to blue light, which can make falling asleep difficult.”

Banishing technology also prevents you from getting sucked into conversations. Even though it might be nice to hear from your college roommate for the first time in years, they can wait until morning. “Without the beeps, buzzes, and blue light of technology, it’s easier to relax and drift off into deep sleep,” says Robert Pagano, cofounder at Sleepline


The bedroom should be a restful space, not an extension of your stressful office. “It’s also a good idea to keep work materials, like books, papers and notepads off the nightstand,” Pagano says. “These can be a reminder of tasks that need to be done, which can lead to stress and prevent a restful night.”


You might be surprised to learn that humidifiers can be distracting. If you want one in your room, the nightstand might not be the best spot. “The best place for a humidifier is on a flat and stable surface, preferably at least three feet away from the bed,” Harris says. “If a humidifier is too close to the bed, you risk being exposed to too much humidity throughout the night or waking up due to noises from the humidifier itself.”

She adds that it can be a safety concern since they contain boiling water. If the humidifier is on the nightstand, it could easily be knocked over — especially if little children are around. Try to put it on a dresser or table instead. “The higher up the better,” Harris says. “As humidifiers produce a mist that has to get mixed with the air.” 

A safer option to keep closer to the bed is cool mist humidifiers. The cooling effect helps improve the quality of sleep, boost your immune system, and keep you cool throughout the night, Harris suggests.